Humour in the Bible: book 21: Ecclesiastes

‘King for a day – Fool for a lifetime’ Català: Graffiti a Patraix

This series is just getting more and more interesting 🙂 For Ecclesiastes I came across:

Levine, Étan. “The Humor in Qohelet.” Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 109, no. 1 (January 1997): 71-83.
As well as all its other strengths Levine begins with a nice catalogue of the stupid scholars who have pompously declaimed the absence of humour from Scripture. No, not raging Fundy Americans, but proper dignified European scholars, I enjoyed reading some of their wise words at the start of this podcast. In fact for humour in Ecclesiastes I’ll basically just read a short extract of Qohelet’s words (Ecclesiastes 10:5-15) and almost let them speak for themselves.

For Qohelet it is the absence of sense that raises a laugh.
Here’s the link to the audio:

PS: for more explanation hear also:


  1. “Except humor” priceless!

    I found myself wishing for a bit more specificity in explaining why the particular examples are funny. On one hand, things like the person falling in a pit he dug is simple pratfall funnies. But being bitten by the snake? I think the whole thing needs some explanation perhaps in terms of the elements you’ve identified as signaling humor. I agree with most of what you say about the examples being funny. But I’m trying to imagine what my African friends would think about this passage. Fatalism. Cause and effect. Not funny. Just the laws of the universe at work.

  2. Author

    Done! Thank you for the suggestion, it gave me an excuse to post on this lovely passage a second time 🙂

    BTW I think my African colleagues would have appreciated Ecclesiastes 10:5-15, the Murphy’s Law aspects would have been laughed over, and the thought that none of us can foresee the future, we are the fools who “don’t know the way to town” is a very Congolese recognition.

    I wish I’d had a chance to teach Ecclesiastes in Africa, but it is not a young man’s book, so I never had the chance.

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